Critics: USA Freedom Act Will Codify Government Data Collection
Legislative critics of the USA Freedom Act, which was celebrated by privacy advocates as it passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, say the law will merely adjust and codify the government’s practice of bulk telephone data collection, rather than end it.
Sam Sacks reports at The Intercept:
The USA Freedom Act was approved in a 338-88 vote, with approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voting against. The bill’s supporters say it will disallow bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata, in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has regularly ordered phone companies to turn over such data. The Obama administration claims such collection is authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire June 1. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that Section 215 does not provide such authorization.
Today’s legislation would prevent the government from issuing such orders for bulk collection and instead force it to rely on telephone companies to store all their metadata — some of which the government could then demand using a “specific selection term” related to foreign terrorism. Bill supporters maintain this would prevent indiscriminate collection.
“A vote in favor of this bill is a vote to end dragnet surveillance in the United States,” Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., a co-sponsor of the legislation, claimed on the House floor ahead of the vote.
But Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., says the effect of the bill will be the opposite of its authors’ stated intent:
“We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding.
“The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.”
In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
Read more here.
— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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